A+ Teacher: Penny Shuster Louks

Penny Shuster Louks

8th Grade Language Arts at Belle Fourche Middle School
Belle Fourche, SD

A love of helping others has always been in Penny’s nature. When she reached ninth grade, her English teacher enlisted her help to assist struggling peers with their grammar and reading. From there, the interest in teaching struck a chord with Penny. Now, Mrs. Louks has been welcoming her students into her classroom for over 25 years.

Penny is a mom of three boys and which has given her many of her strengths as a teacher. She has taught in three states and has found her home in South Dakota as an eighth grade Language Arts teacher at Belle Fourche Middle School.

“Eighth graders are ‘my people’,” smiled Penny. “They are on the brink of adulthood, but they are not totally set in their ways, yet. You never know what they are going to say or be interested in, but that is all a part of their charm! I’m honored to help them discover their talents.”

Together, Penny and her students break projects like research papers and reading important historical documents into organized, diverse chunks of information – making the learning process of big ideas a bit easier to take in.

“Penny has a huge heart and is always willing to assist colleagues or students when they need help,” said Principal Kevin Smidt. “Although she is a tested veteran of various teaching styles and strategies, she isn’t afraid to try new things. She sets high expectations and offers help and motivation; that’s why students benefit from being in her classroom.”

That motivation Mrs. Louks passes onto her students is contagious and is recognized by many.

“Mrs. Louks treats every day as a new opportunity for her students to demonstrate their love of learning,” said Penny’s colleague Julie Hatling. “She works countless hours carefully organizing writing projects and thought-provoking discussions – encouraging students to express themselves and think critically.”

Not only is Penny inspiring her students to be their best version of themselves, but she is an advocate for making the district a better place, as well.

In 2006, Penny received her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, as well as gaining National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Language Arts in 2011. Through these programs, her knowledge of data driven teaching methods, and the ability to lead grew phenomenally and has been a strong asset to her classroom and school.

Penny serves as an active member of the school’s Building Leadership Team, as well as the District Data Leadership Team – facilitating professional development, and the progression of English Language Arts in the school system.

“The dedication that Mrs. Louks shows to our students, parents, staff, and school district are unsurpassed by any individual, and she is an exceptional asset to the Belle Fourche School District,” said Julie.

Words by Jenna Carda
Photos by Jesse Brown Nelson